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September 10, 2003


Underdog Cox targets Sen. Durbin
Republican ignores Senate race opponents

It is easy to get confused when speaking with John Cox about whom he is really opposing in the race to replace retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.).

From the sound of it, his opponent is Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) instead of the nearly 10 other candidates running for the seat.

“Take Dick Durbin,” Cox said in an interview with The Hill. “He’s been in politics since he was right out of college. And what does he do now? He flutters in the wind. He is at the mercy of teachers unions and trial lawyers.”

Cox, an accountant and financial adviser, vied for the Republican nomination to challenge Durbin in 2002 and ran for the House in 2000 but lost the GOP primary. He touts experience in politics as well as an “extensive résumé.”

Patrick G. Ryan
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) isn’t a candidate in the race to replace retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.), but he’s the target of much of John Cox’s campaign rhetoric.

Cox grew up on the South Side of Chicago, the son of a public-school teacher and a postman. He graduated from the University of Illinois and Kent College of Law.

If elected, Cox said he would be the only U.S. senator who is also a certified public accountant (CPA).

“That’s the difference,” he said, adding, “I’m going to be able to speak to people as a CPA.

“Hopefully, I’ll be in demand for news shows and not just because I want to be on TV.”

Despite Cox’s vows to be collegial, he continued venting about Durbin. “He has very little in the way of a life outside of politics,” he said. “He’s a passionate person, but he’s also a demagogue. He’s a bitter partisan.”

But Cox doubts his earlier run against Durbin and his palpable distaste would create tensions in the delegation. “The issues,” he said, “would be the only source of tension.”

Cox’s Republican rivals — Jack Ryan, Jim Oberweis and Andrew McKenna — so far have significantly outpaced Cox in fundraising and building a political organization.

Cox — tanner and trimmer than an average 47-year-old — looks like many politicians on Capitol Hill. He has freshly cut, white hair and wears a dark suit, white shirt, red tie and American-flag pin on his lapel.

His disposition fits the mold of a would-be lawmaker who is trying too hard. He leans in close and delivers a light touch to the listener’s knee with an index finger. He speaks in urgent, low tones.

But what makes him worthy of being a senator?

His reasons include teaching Sunday school, serving on boards and attending the Republican convention in 1992, 1996 and 2000; he says he did not see his opponents there.

“I have attended pro-life rallies,” he said.

Cox said he expects the endorsement of Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) and is seeking Fitzgerald’s blessing. Indeed, Cox said, he already knows “every Republican senator.”

But a few hours after the interview, Cox’s spokesman, Andy Bloom called back to breathlessly recant Hyde’s anticipated endorsement. Bloom noted that Hyde has not declared anything publicly.

Cox is a divorced father of three daughters.

Now remarried, he said his new wife is more supportive of his political ambitions than his former one.

“My ex-wife hated politics,” Cox said. “That may have been one of the sources of our problems.”


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